A WELCOME breath of fresh air swept into Yorkshire just in time for the new season with the surprise arrival of Darren Gough as captain and Martyn Moxon as director of cricket.
The returning exiles got Yorkshire off to a cracking start both in the Championship and the Friends Provident Trophy and for quite a while it looked as if the team would enjoy a magical summer.
But although there was an overall improvement in one-day results, performances generally were not good enough to make any real impact while in the Championship Yorkshire lost their momentum once the midsummer floods were over.
They managed to hold on to top spot in the table right through to early August but then three defeats in four matches destroyed the hope that they could clinch the title for the first time since 2001.
Yet despite this late disappointment, Yorkshire still fared much better than many had thought and the fact that they were never haunted by the spectre of relegation means that they were a success rather than a failure.
The worry for the future is that, apart from the splendid Adil Rashid, none of the youngsters really moved forward, but this was partly due to four first team places mainly being occupied by two overseas and two Kolpak players.
Yorkshire will announce their Player of the Year awards at next week’s end-of-season dinner at Headingley Carnegie and three names stand out as competing strongly for the main prize.
Darren Gough is a worthy contender, having led Yorkshire from the front while at the same time making outstanding contributions with the ball in all forms of the game.
Up to this week’s final Championship match against Hampshire, Gough was the leading wicket-taker among the pacemen with 37 dismissals at 22.16 runs apiece. Three times he collected five or more wickets in an innings and on several occasions he re-discovered the sort of form which forged him into one of the world’s greatest fast bowlers.
Adil Rashid proved himself to be mature beyond his 19 years in being able to go into the last match as leading wicket-taker with 40 victims from his leg spin as well as scoring 776 runs at an average of 45.64.
Named Young Cricketer of the Year for 2007 by the Cricket Writers’ Club, Rashid got his season off to a flying start with 21 Championship wickets from the first four matches and the famine he then suffered for a while was due to a succession of unresponsive pitches caused by the worst summer floods in memory which reduced five consecutive matches virtually to single innings affairs.
When the weather picked up, Rashid’s batting also improved and he followed up his maiden century against Worcestershire at Kidderminster with three consecutive half-centuries.
The other leading candidate for Player of the Year is South African Jacques Rudolph, who was easily Yorkshire’s most consistent batsman, the left-hander oozing class in a modest and elegant way.
Rudolph, a Kolpak signing with a three-year contract, hit a century on his Championship debut against Surrey at The Oval and went on to add two more ‘tons’ before piling up 220 against Warwickshire at Scarborough, briefly to re-ignite Yorkshire’s Championship challenge.
During the course of that epic innings he became the first Yorkshire batsman to complete 1,000 first class runs for the season
Younus Khan would undoubtedly have made it to the 1,000 runs mark also had he not left Yorkshire with three matches remaining in order to play for Pakistan in the World Twenty20 in South Africa.
Younus, however, was nowhere near as consistent as Rudolph because 525 of his 825 Championship runs came from three innings in two matches. He became the only batsman in Yorkshire’s history to make a double century and a century in the same match when he plundered 106 and 202 not out against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl and his unbeaten 217 against Kent at Scarborough made him the county’s only batsman to record two unbeaten double centuries in the same season.
Anthony McGrath once again showed excellent form without quite reaching the same heights as in the previous two seasons and Joe Sayers methodically rapped out three early-season centuries to earn his first team cap before suffering a dramatic loss of form which caused him to be dropped.
His opening partner, Craig White, was also axed when the runs deserted him and Yorkshire are still searching for an opening pair from the same mould as Holmes and Sutcliffe, Boycott and Richard Lumb and Moxon and Metcalfe.
Matthew Hoggard spiced up Yorkshire’s attack whenever he was able to play but Gough lacked support from the other pacemen, Jason Gillespie being a big disappointment with only 23 wickets at 34.91 runs apiece and Deon Kruis out injured for much of the time.
Tim Bresnan steadily accumulated over 30 wickets and hit a couple of centuries to remain on the fringes of an England place but the 22-year-old needs to move up a gear if he is to make it to the top.
All in all, a better than expected season but Yorkshire know that they must perform more strongly next year, particularly in the one-dayers and especially in the financially lucrative Twenty20 event.